Bob Gale & Barry Kitson’s Freak the Third
When reviewing these stories I’m going to try to concentrate on covering arcs. That means I’ll tackle the single issue stories in their own entries, which’ll be shorter since there’s not as much to cover. So how does Freak’s return go down? Is he less one-dimensional or has he gained any depth as a character? Or does this story just make buffoons of everyone appearing in it?
Buckle-up and let’s find out!
Doc Connors feels impotent. Spidey wants to find Freak before he returns. Menace shows up – people yawn. Connors & Spidey beat the bad guy.
More below the fold!
This one-off issue follows up on Gale’s earlier Freak arc, which I’ve already taken a retrospective look back at here and for being just one issue it’s pretty flawed. Menace and Freak really scrape the bottom of the imagination barrel for Spider-villains and you know… as much as I hate Venom in the 1990’s even he was written better than these two.
First up – this issue’s got some groan-inducing dialogue. In one panel Doctor Connors, feeling responsible for Freak, actually says…
“Damn this one arm! If only I was whole again. If only I could…”
Now Crawl Spacers, that’s painfully bad to read. That remark in context is Connors lamenting that he didn’t lock up the biochemcials that Freak shot up with. So presumably Connors is wishing here that he was “whole,” that his “one arm” apparently stopped him from locking up the advanced serum formulas that he created. God Almighty. The guy can research animal DNA like no one’s business and he’s Hell with the day’s best bio-technology and lab equipment. But apparently he’s going to whine about “not being whole” which, as Gale would have us believe, is stopping him from locking things up. Are you freaking kidding me? Seriously? He’s even talking about how he’s “worthless” here, which adds an even new level of analysis when you look at ‘Shed’ and how it implies the Lizard (aka Connors) raped his lab assistant. You know, after eating his own kid.
The dialogue keeps getting worse. When Spidey comes across Menace later in the day the lame Goblin knock-off utters the phrase “Who’s your daddy, Spider-Coward? Who’s your daddy?” And this is why readers can’t take Menace seriously. With Menace it’s clear from the get-go that the ‘Brain Trust’ was trying to ape the success of the Hobgoblin in the 1980’s by introducing a new Goblin-type character surrounded by danger and mystery. Back in the 1980’s it was handled by Roger Stern and Tom DeFalco and it was filled-to-the-brim with smart plotting and fantastic characterization and development. Menace’s stories in Joe Quesdas’s Brandnewverse has none of that whatsoever! The ‘mystery’ is clumsily evolved and there’s no reason to be interested in Menace because Menace isn’t interesting! He’s (well, she) is just another generic super thug with cookie-cutter villain dialogue. Jeez, Scooby Doo villains are more interesting than Menace.
But before Menace and Spider-Man can even get into a tussle Spidey heads off when the police threaten to have their snipers open fire. And hey, I can totally see why sniper fire scares off a hero who is able to dodge machine gun fire and who posseses a Spider-Sense that alerts him to danger would be scared off by that. Especially with Menace threatening the life of another politician coming so soon after Spider-Man having witnessed a politician dying because of Menace first-hand. Ugh.
Let’s jog back to the dialogue. Apparently Freak’s third resurrection (so far he’s bulletproof and fireproof) also took away his potty-mouth. So we’re not deluged with that silly fake comic swearing that was all over the place in Gale’s previous Freak arc. In correcting it (which is good!) we have the added problem of inconsistency since Freak’s not talking the same way he was through his first three issues. And that’s why having him in earlier as one of the most foul-mouthed villains to ever grace the pages of Amazing Spider-Man was a bad idea from the start. Freak gets nothing added to make him less generic (aside from his powers) or more interesting. At all.
Aunt May comes across badly here as well, getting giddy about Peter moving out when Peter’s actually feeling bad for leaving her. Now that’s consistent for Peter’s decades of characterization but not so much for Aunt May.
I also haven’t said much about the ongoing subplot with Jonah’s heart attack thus far throughout Quesada’s Brandnewverse. This subplot’s interesting when Jonah’s bombastic nature’s not being overplayed. Marla’s sold the paper for Jonah’s own good and is saying she’s left him for a bit so he can calm down and they can discuss where they’re going from there, while reminding him she loves him. That’s legitimately interesting stuff! And it’s a shame that we see little of it. We’re losing more interesting Jonah stuff for the sake of non-interesting and forced Carlie/Vin/Lily stuff. Pity.
Barry Kitson’s art. If I have said it once I’ve said it a thousand times and I will keep saying it. The art, to this point in the Brandnewverse, has not been a problem. And Kitson’s take on Freak is actually the most eye-pleasing yet. Unfortunately the writing doesn’t match that.
Oh God, everything else. Menace and Freak are laughable here, though that’s expected cause there’s not a lot to them to begin with. But Doctor Connors really takes a character hit here with the “Oh curse this damnable missing arm of mine!” panel coupled with his feelings of worthlessness. And Spider-Man? He goes from not wanting to kill Freak at the beginning of the story, to the point of not really entertaining it as an option, to instantly being A-OK with it the moment Connors drives up with a trunk full of quicklime. This might make more sense if he’d been fighting with Freak this time for three issues in a gruelling war of attrition. But that’s not what happened here. Freak hadn’t even hit Spidey at that point and the innocent bystanders had already fled!